Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham was seeking a second consecutive term in Monday, boasting of increasing investments while opponents hammered him over rising crime and joblessness.
Analysts were predicting a tight race between the Ingraham's Free National Movement and the Progressive Liberal Party led by former Prime Minister Perry Christie.
The two parties have dominated political life in the country since it won independence from Britain in 1973, though a new party, the Democratic National Alliance is also fielding candidates in the 38 parliamentary districts.
Ingraham, who has been in power since 2007 and previously led the islands from 1992 to 2002, has acknowledged that recent years have been challenging for residents of the archipelago of 700 islands of Florida's east coast.
The unemployment rate has risen to nearly 15 percent in the country of about 350,000 people and foreclosures have increased. There were a record 127 murders last year, roughly 30 more than the previous year.
"It is true that our country has had to weather some stiff winds (but) through it all we have persevered and progressed," Ingraham said in a national address on Sunday.
Ingraham asserts that his administration has ushered in an accountable, transparent government and has made steady progress with national security and economic recovery since the global recession. Infrastructure programs fixing roads, drainage, water and other public utility services are nearly finished, he said.
Christie asserts that Ingraham's administration has ignored social needs and long-term growth of the islands' tourism dependent economy. His party has vowed to safeguard the vital tourism sector, double the nation's investment in education and job training, reduce energy costs and effectively battle crime.
"I'd like to ask you what it would feel like to wake up on May 8 and know you had five more years of an FNM government that doesn't believe in you?" Christie said during a Sunday night address.
Raymond Claridge, a gas station owner in Nassau, said Ingraham deserved another term and worried that a transition would halt progress.
"Every time there is a change of government it sets us back," Claridge said as he stood in line to vote.
Liquor store manager Darren Bethell, from the largest island of Andros, said it was time for a change.
"(Ingraham) has been in power way too long. It has gotten to the point where he thinks the people cannot resist him," he said.
Associated Press writer David McFadden contributed to this story from Kingston, Jamaica.
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